Today, as temperatures hover around 90, my thoughts take me back to my childhood when television was not a 24/7 presence and the term “personal computer” was still two decades away. Telephones were all land lines – what else could they possibly be? Some of my friends were lucky enough to have what we called “party lines” where several families shared a line and you could eavesdrop on your neighbor’s conversations. That was loads of fun.
You’ve probably figured out by now I’ve been infected with a disease called acute nostalgia. As far as I know there is no treatment or relief from the condition except to spend as much time as possible with others so afflicted. That pretty much includes anyone who grew up in the 50s and 60s and remembers clothes blowing in the wind on the clothesline out back, and playing hide and go seek at dusk. You could be decapitated by those same clotheslines as you darted across the neighbor’s backyard to get back to home base. My Mama Lee actually had a dryer but it was used only by Papa Lee to stash his Christmas bottle of whisky. He thought we didn’t know.
In those days everybody loved Lucy and Father always knew best. We would make ourselves a Coke float, sit on the davenport, and hum along with Cool cats singing “Do wah diddy diddy, dum diddy doo.” I never did know what that meant. Good art in those days featured framed prints of dogs playing poker.
I loved watching Dinah Shore sing “See the USA in your Chevrolet” when the average cost of the family car was a mere $2,749, and brace yourself — gasoline was only 24 cents a gallon! A guy once told me that a car with fins guaranteed him a date with the cutest girl in the class.
But there was more to the 50s than sock hops and milkshakes delivered to your car window by a girl wearing skates. For one thing there was no swearing on TV. In fact there was no swearing in life. I was once grounded for a week for saying “double darn” and that’s no lie. (I only say “no lie” because it has come to my attention that some people think I make this stuff up.) I was grounded for TWO weeks for sneaking into a limited showing of “Splendor in the Grass” at The Ritz. Oh, the shame of it.
Those were the days when the whole family sat down for supper every evening and occupied the very same pew in church each Sunday. Heaven help the stranger who dared sit in your place. Incidentally, it was true what the rest of the world thought about us “hicks” in the south — we didn’t wear shoes from May to September except for Sundays, and there was no pain like being caught in a patch of stickers on a hot summer afternoon. You could miss supper (dinner was served at 12 noon) waiting for someone to come to your rescue.
My nose remained sunburned from May to September and I fully expect to come down with skin cancer any day now. We lounged around in the sun wearing a homemade suntan lotion concocted from baby oil and iodine. Why in the world would you want something called sun screen? That was counter-intuitive to our 50s way of thinking. The whole point was to sport a nice rosy painful glow, oblivious to the dangers.
We had just been introduced to the frisbee and the hula-hoop, and to coin a phrase “it was a very good year for small town girls and soft summer nights. We’d hide from the lights on the village green when I was seventeen.” Oh wait, maybe I didn’t coin that phrase after all…
My mother planted pine trees in the front yard which were in perfect alignment for our bases in an afternoon game of softball. I still remember her yelling at us to stop pulling needles off those precious pines. After she died my Daddy had to have those trees cut because he was afraid a high wind would blow them onto the house.
My best friends and closest neighbors Phil, Martha, Lota and Larry would have “fop fights” every Saturday morning. In case you haven’t had the pleasure, a fop fight is when you take all the leftover Daily Times Leaders from Phil’s paper route, wet them down and pummel each other until you’re black and blue. Boy, was that fun or what? Martha and Mother are gone now and the rest of us have joined the ranks of “”retiree”. How did it happen so fast?
But the memories come flooding back when I hear the buzzing of a bee which is a rarity these days. Where have all the bees gone? And the frogs. They were everywhere in the 50s and the boys used to taunt us with them. The worst feeling in the world was when Phil put one down my tank top. (Incidentally, the wearing of a tank top for me will occur about the time evolution eliminates the human little toe.)
So what do you remember about your childhood? What sparks your return to the child who still lurks inside? I wonder if your memories are similar to mine and half as wonderful. I feel like the luckiest woman in the world to have been allowed to grow up in Small Town USA where all the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the children were above average. (Ah, a little plagiarism never hurts a writer’s style especially if her credibility is questionable anyway.)